exponentiation ezine
exponentiation en ezine

exponentiation ezine: issue [2.0:culture]

[ music | books | film | food ]

Karjalan Sissit: Karjalan Sissit (Svartvintras/Coldspring 2001)

The name of this act is in Finnish although the composer is Swedish.
The reason for this is that he was born in Finland, and his uncle who
died in the war was part of the Karjalan Sissit, "Karelian Elite" in
English. The music on this album is a sinister ambient soundscape of
the bleakness of the reality on the field during the war between
Finland and Russia. Often bombastic with ferocious drumming, sometimes
eerily calm, the unrelenting desire for victory in the surrounding
wasteland of shrapnel and corpses just radiates from the music. The
desire isn't arrogant or pompous but the silently strong will of men
made from stone. There are also two old Finnish songs, track 4 "Suomi
Marssi," an old march song, and "Säkkijärven Polkka," another
traditional song. Both have a scratchy sound as if played through a
gramophone, and they fit very well in the overall context of the
album. A worthwhile representation of the Finnish 'sisu', or 'guts' in
English, at the least. - frostwood


Fripp and Eno: "Evening Star" (EG Records, 1975) 
Unassuming at first yet building itself from a simple arpeggio or
shimmering tone cluster are the sublime melodic narratives that
envelope the listener, providing, like ambient music was intended for,
either pleasant background music or an immersive experience, depending
on the degree one wants to devote their attention span to perception
of such a form. At the time, ambient may have been seen as some new
kind of avant-garde music that could barely be recognized as such, but
going against the grain of other blues-slasher contemporaries, Robert
Fripp helped advance a language of musicality outside of pop-based
forms with of all possible instruments, an electric guitar. Fripp
meanders but works within a loose collection of ideas, while layering
occasional counterpoints to keep coherence.

In contrast Brian Eno stays within more controlled territory playing
simple piano lines in between lead guitar as heard in "Evening Star".
Both complement each other nicely by providing musical adventurousness
with a stable foundation to work against. Upon getting to "Wind on
Wind", the listener may realize how well this duo can shape atmosphere
itself to create the kind of amorphous melody that, while impossible
to hum, is just as musically profound as anything made by a master
composer. In this case, Fripp is one of those contemporary masters in
the world of guitar music.
Some who are to used to worshipping over-hyped heroes that build
entire songs from recycled blues licks may not understand what the
fuss is about. After all, there are no flashy solos or accessible
riffs. Though Fripp is certainly esteemed in his respective niche,
most people prefer the smash appeal of an AC/DC or Eric Clapton; not
many rockers have the ability of Fripp to holistically compose
distinctive compositions conveying a variety of moods with more depth
than one might find in the average food court's sampling of 'ethnic'
cuisine. Each track is solid in its own way, and if these two
musicians are to be lauded for anything associated with this project
it should be for the enlightened and creative use of shifting melodic
layers over simple ostinatos to create a sublime tension between
divergent themes while maintaining a consistently satisfying mood. -


Arcana:  Cantar de Procella (Cold Meat Industry 1997) 
Melancholic, brooding, epic, and sweeping are all words that come to
mind to describe this wonderful album. Cantar de Procella, Arcana's
second full-length album, is one of might and melancholy; it creates
both intense and bombastic atmospheres alongside subtle and gloomy
ones.  Arcana build their songs on this album slowly as this is a band
that loves to dwell in atmosphere created by looping harmonies and
melodies along with ethereal vocals.  But make no mistake Arcana is
not really what one would call a minimalist band, though they are
minimal. Arcana are fanciful, epic, and dim and they are capable of
subtle shifting between these moods within songs. The music on this
particular album can be labeled medievalist darkwave as there are many
medieval styled melodies and structures to be found on this album
while the mood and atmosphere of the music itself is firmly in the
darkwave camp. The songs are also composed with a lot of reliance on
electronic sources, but organic instruments are also mixed in it, thus
making the composition approach akin to Dead Can Dance in those
respects. Overall the music found on this album is on par with
Arcana's first release, Dark Age of Reason.

Arcana can often sound similar to soundtrack music as the atmospheres
they create can be complimented very elegantly with visuals and the
songs easily fall into the background to create an ambiance for scenes
in an epic film or game. At times it seems appropriate to compare
Arcana to the darker side of Dead Can Dance, as Arcana's compositional
approach can be very similar to that of DCD, though Arcana does not
stray far from the minimalist approach. Arcana aren't as varied as DCD
in terms of moods and sounds, but nevertheless a DCD direct or
indirect influence can be picked up and traced through many of the
songs on this album.

The electronic and organically created melodies that lace this album
weave together to carry across the spirit of a murky forest in the
evening, as they can be soft and subtle, but also quite brooding. The
atmospheric hums, the sequencers, violins, vocals and flutes are at
times reminiscent of the winds when rushing through the trees.  Horns
sound, choir vocals echo and flutes softly resonate as electronic
drums pound a soft funeral hymn or powerful war march; it's as if the
music were at times written for the great gasp before the storm of war
where peace and violence reside side by side. The melodies are
brooding and the atmospheres shift like the waves at night. Arcana
have masterfully crafted a soundtrack to be played at ancient moors,
near arcane ruins in the forests and on cliffs overlooking the ocean
at dusk. Arcana stand as atmospheric masters in a genre known for
atmosphere, and that is a testament towards the bands strength.  The
weakness is that at times the band can lose focus and become too
repetitive or lack creative focus by creating moods that are too deep
and never lighten to express the completeness of a moment.  This
fault, however, is not detraction from the beauty of this music as a

This album is for those who have a taste for brooding, ethereal music.
Highly recommended for fans of darkwave, medievalist, dark ambient or
dark industrial music. - phantasm


My Bloody Valentine: "Loveless" (Sire, 1991) 

My Bloody Valentine were placed at the forefront of the so-called
"Dream Pop" movement in 1991 when this classic came out. Utilizing
layers of atmospheric keyboards, overdriven guitars and eerily
delicate singing, this band creates a massive wall of often discordant
but harmonious sound that could only be the result of studio wizardry.

Although this album is considerably rock-based and heavily harmonic,
it also possesses a sense of melody natural and profound in
construction that makes it alien to the scope of most pop recordings.
While most songs in the Top 40 rely on inoffensive chord progressions
and mildly catchy hooks, frontman Belinda Butcher and co. whisper
melodies that seamlessly flow together in steady cadence as if leading
the essential song structure by themselves. The result is something
appealing but much emotionally deeper than most bands in pop and rock.

I would recommend this album to anyone with a half-decent musical
taste but especially to those practitioners in the realm of black
metal who could learn from this album. In the musical aesthetic they
were seeking, My Bloody Valentine were not that far off from classic
Burzum. Album highlights: Loomer; To Here Knows When; What You Want;
Soon. - sothis


Niccolo Paganini: The Best of Paganini (Naxos)

This Italian violinist revolutionized violin playing in the early 19th
century, placing himself at the horizon of the forthcoming Romantic
movement and personifying that era's unique emphasis on the musician
as deeply self-conscious artist rather than mere musical craftsman for
royalty. Indeed, true to this non- conformist spirit, these works
remain some of the most difficult and challenging pieces ever written
for violin.

Although Paganini is most known for his 24 caprices, he also wrote in
a variety of other forms ranging from symphony and guitar/violin
concertos to even solo guitar pieces. On this outing, Naxos has put
together a decent introduction to the artist showcasing his various
works including 6 of his 24 caprices as performed by Russian violinist
Ilya Kaler.

It becomes evident after a few listens why his caprices are as famous
as they are. Each are furiously technical but spirited pieces that
work through one or two dominant ideas crafted from a flurry of scale
runs, arpeggios and wide intervallic leaps that bounce around to a
steady rhythmic pattern. His visually compelling use of chromatics
gesture towards future developments in tonality as the Romantic era
wore on but like Beethoven stays mostly to a Classical ideal of
consonance while aiming for melodic complexity.

Kaler is no doubt technically proficient, but with maybe some
understanding of his plight of having to learn these inhumanly
difficult pieces, I have to say I was left a little disappointed in
his performance. It could be just my taste, but I found his tone to be
forced, brittle, flat and sometimes noticeably offkey. This man won
gold medals at three of the most prestigious competitions, but at
least from what I can tell on this recording, I do not understand what
the enormous accolades are for.

The guitar with violin compositions are pleasant if sometimes
simplistic and predictable works that aim for melodic accessibility.
These songs are broken up by soft periodic lulls that pick up with
return of motif. In his concertos, the violin not surprisingly takes
the spot light after sufficient staging with orchestral instruments,
by gradually unfurling and leading off from the instruments only to
unite with them again with each dynamic peak. The orchestrations gave
way to a single thought: Beethoven-lite. They are mainly there to
support Paganini's virtuosity.

Overall, this CD is a good and cheap introduction to this musician but
noting the deficiencies of Kaler, there are probably better disks out
there for the same purpose. - sothis


VNV Nation: Matter and Form (Metropolis Records, 2005)

If you are a latecomer to the world of electronically-produced music,
getting your feet wet in the wide expanse of artists and styles found
within this spectrum can be a daunting task. It's very easy to dismiss
this style as cold and lifeless, since attempting to find a human
presence - be this emotion, passion, or "soul" - in such a ruthlessly
technological aesthetic is oftentimes hopeless. It seems to be a
habitual staple of most electronic acts to desire only to produce the
type of brash, saccharine, repetitively rhythmcentric tripe that is
pounded through the speakers of nightclubs the world over, as opposed
to an exploration of this medium for the artistic potential it could
conceivably unlock within the creator. As in all things though,
exceptions to the rule are out there, and these exceptions have
discovered that great art can be made utilizing a technological
framework of abstraction and mechanized sound to elucidate a
distinctly organic vision of reality and our place within it. VNV
Nation has successfully transcended the one-dimensional expectations
of this musical avenue to produce a work of intellect, zeal, and
morbid optimism in the face of a world gone mad.

A certain innocent hopefulness ("Arena") intertwined with an
assertiveness defined by its resilience ("Strata" "Interceptor") and
underscored by occasional solitary introspection ("Endless Skies")
paint a picture of an enduringly pragmatic yet personalized idealism
bound within every note and theme of these rich and darkly sonorous
tracks. Most likely due to preconceptions of the vapidity of most
writers in this genre, the lyrical content is surprising, and
self-aware, while at the same time marred by an infrequent moribund
reliance on sentimentality to convey its sense-impressions. Vocals are
recognizably human in tone, lending an immediacy to the overall
impact, in direct contrast to the distancing which can be observed in
the over-industrialization of most vocal patterns found in this music.

The final track "Perpetual" is a summation of the several different
moods found within the album, with strong development of central
themes and concepts beyond the limitations of its outward form through
a calculated repetition of its sonic palette into a dissolution of
naked synth-derived atmosphere. It serves as a fitting conclusion to a
highly recommended album for those disgusted by the scarcity of
worthwhile music to be found in a modern era. - blaphbee
copyright © 2005 mock Him productions